Reflections on Responsiveness and Communication



The dialogue strand of organization and management literature (Isaacs, 1993, 1999; Scharmer, 1999, 2001; Schein, 1993, 1999; Senge, 1990, 1994) diagnoses an increasing differentiation in organizations and pluralism of subcultures. These developments and trends increase the need of perceptive, reflective mechanisms that make it possible for people “to discover that they use language differently, that they operate from different mental models, and that the categories we employ are ultimately learned social constructions of reality and thus arbitrary.” (Schein, 1993: 43). This problem definition suggests that differences in lifeworlds and language games call for an enhanced capacity of the organization to perceive, understand respond to issues voiced from members of the different contexts. Based on this investigation, I would refer to such a capacity as responsiveness. Most forms of organizational group talk take place in a confronting mode such as discussion or debate, usually resulting in a strategy of participants to maintain their certainties and suppress deeper inquiry into the root causes of problems. In contrast, dialogue, conceptualized by proponents of this literature, is considered “a discipline of collective thinking and inquiry, a process for transforming the quality of conversation and, in particular, the thinking that lies beneath it.” (Isaacs, 1993: 24–25). In the light of these considerations, the acknowledgment of pluralism in language and social construction of reality results in the suggestion to consider responsiveness as a means for enhancing and encouraging collective thinking, i.e. perception and reflection.


Communicative Action Conditioned Response Strategic Action Validity Claim Collective Thinking 
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© Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag/GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden 2003

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